Youth give new life to old house

NANAIMO: Association renovating an old rooming house into a home for working youth.

Steve Arnett

Steve Arnett

Youth in Nanaimo will soon have a safe and affordable place to live.

Nanaimo Youth Services Association is renovating a home on Haliburton Street to offer working youth, ages 17 to 30 years old, a place to live. The home, which was built in the early 1900s, was historically used as a rooming house. Over the years it became run down and got the reputation in the neighbourhood of being a crack house.

Steve Arnett, chief executive officer for the association, said neighbours are waiting to see how the changes the youth association makes to the home add to the neighbourhood.

“The community is cautiously optimistic about what we are doing here,” said Arnett.

He said the association has always envisioned owning a piece of property to create affordable youth housing and has been pursing that vision for the last three years. Some opportunities came up during that time but never came to completion.

“I’m almost in disbelief,” said Arnett about purchasing and renovating the property, as he stood outside the home Saturday, grinning.

One of the many volunteers on Saturday included Ben Hall, a BladeRunner program participant.

“It’s a really good project and is going to help out,” he said. “It’s really good for the neighbourhood because it used to be a crack shack.”

Bob Moss, a member of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo North, said the rotary has been working with the youth association for two years.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community,” he said, adding it will help young workers in Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Youth Services Association will renovate the building to provide about 12 to 14 apartments for employed youth. Arnett said the association doesn’t know yet the exact number of rooms because it has to determine the layout of the home first. Arnett said plans for the home include ripping out the insulation to install a sprinkler system, which will make the building above fire code requirements.

Arnett said many Nanaimo businesses volunteered their time and equipment to help during the renovation. The project received $302,000 from the provincial government and a $75,000 grant from the City of Nanaimo, which came from the Housing Legacy Fund.

The association already operates a residence for youth ages 17-19 years old on Waddington Road. The residence has 13 studio units, six two-bedroom units and one wheel-chair accessible unit. The tenants are provided support to help complete high school, become employed or increase their skills to help reach independence. The youth association operated the building through a contract with B.C. Housing and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

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